According to the USDA, the cost of raising a child to the age of 17 is $233,610.
...Are your eyes as big as ours on that one?
From school tuition to clothes to food (ask the mom of a teenager how much food they go through!) the dollar signs add up faster than Weight Watchers points at a fondue restaurant.
That’s why every dollar matters. Smart decisions now can mean a much more manageable financial picture in the long run. And when you’re at the beginning of an expensive 18-year journey, you’ve got to think about the long run!
Here are our favorite tips to save money with your newborn, without sacrificing any important part of the magical first-year experience:
Opt for gender-neutral clothing
Not only will you be SO in the zeitgeist, you’ll save a ton of money by choosing gender-neutral baby clothing
This is most obviously helpful if you’re planning to have more than one baby, so you can reuse the clothes. But you’ll also find you can make so many more outfit combinations if you stick with a more limited color palette.
Neutral colors also happen to be really trendy right now. Just pop into a Madewell or Everlane and see how many bright colors you see. (Spoiler alert: uh, none.) You’d be amazed at how chic a combination of whites, grays, blacks, beiges, and blues can be.
Breast is ... cheapest!
Breastfeeding is a deeply personal choice and there are all sorts of considerations when choosing what to feed your baby. But you can’t deny that breastfeeding is the cheapest (read: free) baby food available.
Of course, there may be costs associated with breastfeeding as well, such as lactation consultants, nursing bras, etc. Before you pay someone, check out free options in your area. Your hospital may also offer breastfeeding classes or there may be free breastfeeding organizations nearby.
When to buy second-hand
Shopping at a thrift store, on eBay, or through apps like Poshmark can save you a ton of money. But what are the best items to do this for?
- Baby toys. If the toy is made of wood, plastic, or another wipeable surface, used toys can be a great way to save money. Or, you can follow blogger Whitney Leigh Morris’s advice and invest in kid-friendly housewares over pricey toys. (Only half-kidding.)
- Baby wraps or carriers. Most moms only use these for the first few months of a baby’s life, so they won’t even be heavily used! They’re made of fabric so you can easily throw it in the washing machine to clean it.
- A crib. If the thought of this skeeves you out, I get it. But do you really think there’s anything on the crib itself that can’t be wiped clean with some Honest Company cleanser? You can pick up a new mattress pad and cover, since that’s the part your baby will be sleeping on.
- Diaper changing table. Same logic as the crib! Buy a new pad and/or cover if you want. But the table itself only needs a good wipe-down and it’ll be good to go.
- Special occasion clothes. If your baby will only wear it once (Christening dress, holiday outfit, tiny tuxedo for a family wedding,) shop secondhand. Chances are, the baby before yours only wore it once, too, so it’s practically new.
- Cold-weather clothes. Your baby will only fit in that winter coat, hat, and furry boots for one season. So go used!
- Okay, ALL baby clothes. They’re washable, after all. You might die over a trip to Carter’s...but there’s no true need to invest in all new pieces for your little one. Practically, they’ll grow out of them in a few weeks so clothing isn’t the smartest use of your money.
One tip for most of these items: make sure they haven’t been recalled since they were created. Safety first! www.recalls.gov is a great resource for this.
Be a speedy returner
You’ll get so many gifts during your pregnancy and the early days of motherhood. Be clear on what you need and what you don’t so you can (gratefully) return any unnecessary items to use the money on something you do need.
Many stores have limited return policies, so make sure to return items promptly. If you’re too busy, this can be a great task to outsource to a partner or family member who’s itching to help!
Whenever possible, opt for cash over store credit — it gives you more freedom.
If they’ll only reimburse with store credit and there’s nothing else you need from the store, consider whether you could gift it to another mama in your network. (Hello, easy baby shower gift!) Or you could try a website like cardpool.com to sell your gift card.
Use your own bags
Real talk: A Diaper Genie® isn’t so much a luxury as a necessity. In our book, it’s one of those necessary luxuries that makes life with a little one so, so much easier.
But, also real talk: the bag refills are pricey! And complicated. (And what’s with the weird never-ending tube of plastic that pulls out to infinity and beyond?)
Skip the expensive refills and use your own bags! Give new life to your plastic bags from the grocery store, mall, or that recent trip to Tar-jay. (What? Hearth & Hand has a new summer line.)
Do the math:
You can spend $12.99 on a Dooli™ Diaper Genie® Refill Adapter and use your own bags FOR THE REST OF TIME.
And bonus points? By using a Dooli™ Bag Adapter, you’re doing a solid for the environment. Every Dooli™ Adapter will save 16 or more plastic refill rings in two years.
Look for free entertainment
Before you drop hundreds on that baby music class or yoga workshop, consider any free options that are available.
You’ll probably be shocked to find your library or other local agencies offer free classes that are every bit as fun as the expensive ones.
You can always opt for unstructured fun, too. With the rise of slow parenting, many believe unstructured play is the best way for babies to develop creativity and crucial skills. So skip the pricey classes and take a leisurely walk in nature instead. Your baby will love it just as much and could get even more benefits.
Ask for samples
You might feel like a cheapo for ten seconds, but you could save a lot of money by asking for samples. (Hey, it never hurts to ask!)
At the hospital, at your pediatrician’s office, and at baby supply stores, always ask if there are any free samples available. Most hospitals have a free take-home kit that includes items like diapers, swaddling cloth, alcohol swabs, and bottles — but only if you ask. And many doctors have sample cans of formula.
Most online stores offer an introductory coupon code if you sign up to their email list. (Shameless plug: Sign up for our mailing list to save 25% off your first order!).
Keep an eye on this email address for special offers and stock up when the savings are great.
Also, if you don’t already have it, download the Honey app. (I’ll wait.) This smart little plugin applies ALL applicable coupons every time you’re checking out online!
Make your own food
According to mint.com, you can save around $400 per year by making your own baby food. Plus, you get the added benefit of knowing exactly what goes into your little one’s food.
This option does involve a little bit of extra work. But products like the Baby Bullet make it a lot easier to make your own food.
This is another task you can outsource to a partner or a willing loved one. If you drop off the groceries and the tools, many people may be happy to help out.
Every parent places importance on different things.
Save your pennies on the things that don’t matter all that much to you...and you’ll have more freedom to invest in the things that DO matter.
What are your best money-saving tips for a newborn? Let us know in the comments!
Save money (and save the planet) by using your own bags in your Diaper Genie®
Just clip the Diaper Genie® Compatible Bag Adapter to use ANY plastic bag in your diaper pail. Better for your wallet, better for the environment.